This morning’s opening of the historic negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons has been a study in contrasts.
As States and civil society gathered in the UN General Assembly to hear powerful opening statements from representatives of the Secretary General, Pope Francis, the ICRC, Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, and the State leaders of the ban treaty negotiations, the UN ambassadors from three nuclear-armed States—the US, the UK, and France—stood outside the room to announce their boycott of the negotiations.
Earlier, while standing on line this morning to get my UN pass, I had confidently told Rob Laney of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation that Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, would have nothing new or interesting to say about why the nuclear-armed states are boycotting the negotiations.
Wow, was I wrong!
For the first time in some 40 years of listening to the US and the other nuclear-armed states offer irrational, self-serving, and disingenuous reasons for keeping nuclear weapons, I’ve never heard anyone put up a “family values” argument before. Haley walked up to the microphone and said that she could not support ban treaty negotiations “as a mother.” That the “good people” who have nuclear weapons (the US, etc.) need them to protect their children from the “bad people” who have them (North Korea) or want them (Iran).
Sure, she said, she’d rather have nuclear-weapons-free world, but that’s not reality, certainly not right now, and so she’s opposed to banning nuclear weapons for the sake of her children.
The ambassadors from the UK and France gave the more familiar reasons for the boycott…the ban treaty is impractical; it will undermine the NPT; it works against the security interests of those who rely on nuclear deterrence; it will throw the world into utter chaos; etc., etc. But Haley raised the bar for absurd objections impossibly high, and neither one of them came even close to clearing it.
As I listened to Haley’s remarks, I vividly recalled standing on the Boston Common in 1982, as Helen Caldicott spoke about the horror of nuclear war, and made an impassioned call—as a doctor and a mother—to eliminate nuclear weapons for the sake of all the world’s children. That was a family values statement about nuclear weapons.
Then again, Nikki Haley is no Helen Caldicott.